Greetings from the American Journal of Political Science Editorial Office! As AJPS readers know, the Journal is strongly committed to the general principles of data access and research transparency. Over the past thirteen months, this commitment has been manifested in the AJPS Replication Policy, which I believe to be one of the most rigorous sets of standards for this purpose in the social science research community. Today, I am very pleased to announce a major revision to the existing AJPS Replication Policy.
The new version of the American Journal of Political Science Replication and Verification Policy explicitly differentiates quantitative and qualitative analyses. Just as in the earlier version, the current Policy requires authors to “provide replication materials that are sufficient to enable interested researchers to reproduce all of the analytic results that are reported in the text and supporting materials (of their article).” But, the “Guidelines for Preparing Replication Files” now include separate sets of instructions for materials pertaining to quantitative and qualitative data. And, the verification process will be carried out differently for the two types of data. Verification of quantitative data analyses will continue to be handled by the Archive Staff at the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. For qualitative analyses, the verification process will be conducted by the staff of the Qualitative Data Repository at Syracuse University. Although differences between these two kinds of analyses certainly exist, I sincerely believe that similarly rigorous criteria can be employed to evaluate the integrity of the data and analytic procedures used in each case.
The updated AJPS Replication and Verification Policy addresses most of the major reservations that have been articulated regarding the general movement to enhance data access and research transparency in political science research. First, there were questions about exactly what materials must be made available. This topic is discussed in detail in the “Guidelines for Preparing Replication Files.” Second, some critics argued that transparency requirements violate data creators’ rights to maintain exclusive access to their data for some period before making it public. The replication guidelines state that authors only need to make available the specific data that were used in the analyses reported in their AJPS articles; any additional observations or variables in the source dataset can be retained for personal use. Third, some scholars raised concerns that replication standards place quantitative analyses in a privileged position relative to qualitative work. Again, the updated replication guidelines accord equal status to quantitative and qualitative analyses by applying appropriate criteria and procedures to each type of research situation. Fourth, there were fears that data access requirements would compromise the protection of human subjects. This topic is discussed explicitly in the updated guidelines, where confidentiality issues and human subjects protection are identified as two of the main reasons that the AJPS Editor will grant an exemption from the general replication requirements. Finally, the Replication and Verification Policy recognizes that it is impossible to anticipate every data analysis situation that may arise in the future. So the AJPS Editor always retains the authority to handle on a case by case basis any research efforts that do not conform fully to the principles underlying the formal guidelines.
In conclusion, I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the AJPS Replication and Verification Policy is not intended to be biased, either positively or negatively, with respect to any epistemological approach, methodological strategy, presentational style, or subject matter. Instead, it is very specifically intended to help ensure that only analyses of the highest possible quality appear within the pages of the Journal. Of course, this immediate goal has broader consequences: On the one hand, it gives authors a stronger foundation to assert that their work actually accomplishes its analytic objectives. On the other hand, it helps promote the scientific study of political phenomena as a rational and cumulative enterprise. Thus, I believe that the AJPS Replication and Verification Policy— along with similar efforts undertaken by other journals and institutions— really makes a tangible and significant contribution to the infrastructure of the social scientific research community.
William G. Jacoby
Editor, American Journal of Political Science